Here is a heartbreaking story, and it’s not a little story either. It should be getting much more attention than it is. It’s called rape, and it is happening on a systematic, daily basis, with increasing frequency and impunity in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Not only simple rape, but kidnapping, torture and sexual enslavement of very young girls, some as young as nine years old. The Women’s Commission for Refugee Women and Children also has issued a report on this. There were 27,000 sexual assaults in one province in 2006 alone! A couple of quotes from the above article:
The perpetrators include the Interahamwe, the Hutu fighters who fled neighbouring Rwanda in 1994 after committing genocide there; the Congolese army; a random assortment of armed civilians; even United Nations peacekeepers, and increasingly, local civilians.
Christine Schuler Deschryver, who works for a German aid organisation and has been a staunch and stubborn advocate for victims, says the perpetrators are difficult to identify. “All of them are raping women,” she says, “It is a country sport. Any person in uniform is an enemy to women.”
Apparently there is no authority willing to try to stop them. There is no order, no law, no police force, nobody who cares about the women who are being savaged, who’s lives are ruined by the indiscriminate assaults on a helpless populace. And not only are the women the only victims.
Some force males at gunpoint to rape mothers or sisters, often in front of the whole community. A large percentage of the attackers are HIV-positive and knowingly try to infect their victims.
“I have seen men literally lost,” Mukwege says. “Emotionally ruined and unable to go on after witnessing the destruction of their wives and the resulting destruction of their families. They are permanently haunted by thoughts going through their head – ‘I raped my wife and family and didn’t stop it.’ Some men flee and abandon their families. In cases where the perpetrators don’t kill their victims outright, they kill them slowly and painfully, not just physically, but psychologically and emotionally. It is the destruction of society.”
A typical example:
Mugoli Muhamiri was expecting wedding guests when she answered a knock at her door six months ago. Instead of relatives, a group of men poured in and began a rampage. She was tied up and the men took turns raping her. From the corner of her eye, she saw her husband’s throat being slit, and two of her children being mutilated. They were two years old. She says she counted seven men raping her, before she lost consciousness. Now she clings to her only surviving child, Stephen, who is unaware of the HIV that infects his mother’s body.
Now here’s the kicker:
“Darfur is nothing compared to what’s going on in the Congo,” says Schuler Deschryver, who despite constant death threats, continues to raise the plight of Congolese women. “My father was the founder of the National Park in Rwanda, which is home to rare silver back gorillas. During the war here, just one silver back was killed. And when it happened, within 48 hours millions in funding was sent to ensure the rest of the gorilla population was protected. Why isn’t the same done with our women? I’ll tell you why, because in the eyes of the international community animals have more value than humans in this part of the world.”
One might come to the conclusion that Africa is truly living up to its former moniker as the “Lost Continent”. We’re losing it, slowly, but surely. First Somalia, then the Rwandan genocide, heap on an AIDS/HIV epidemic, sprinkle it with a Catholic dogma that discourages sexual disease prevention, drop in Darfur, then add the insult of widespread rape to the injury, and you have a giant sucking sound that is not jobs going to Mexico, but an entire continent spinning down the drain.
It’s understandable that there is political and social instability in Africa, but one wonders why the tendency is to take it out on the most defenseless portion of the population.
Too bad they can’t get these distributed in the Congo.
H/T to Boston Back Allie, who has a nice new blog.